By Amaka Ezeno, MCLArb

Extra-judicial statement, also called confession, is an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime. When the police arrest a suspect, he or she is often required to confess or make a statement, even by torture. The purpose of such course is to make the prosecution of the accused easier and their conviction seamless. By our law, the requirements for the admission of confessional statement as evidence against the maker are relevancy and voluntariness.

Extra-judicial statement is said to be relevant so far it relates to the fact in issue in the proceedings. For instance, a confession by an accused that he or she stole is not relevant to a charge of treason. Therefore, once a confessional statement is relevant, the court can act on it regardless of how it was obtained.

In the case of Igbinovian v. State, the accused was standing trial for murder. while in police custody, a police officer was disguised as a criminal and was planted in the cell to extract information. In their discussion, the accused confessed killing the deceased. The court relied on the confessional statement, holding that it was voluntarily made.

Confessional statement is not voluntary if it is obtained by oppression of the person who made it or in consequence of anything said or done which was likely in the circumstance existing at the time, to render unreliable any confession which might be made by him in such consequence.

Thus, statement obtained by inducement, threat, or promise having reference to the charge against the accused person by a person in authority who is capable to give the accused such advantage regarding the promise is not voluntary. In R v. Bodom, the accused persons were tied and beaten by their fellow villages and asked to confess, which they did.

The confession was held inadmissible. In Queen v. Haske, the accused confessed when the Chief of his village told him that he would be goaled unless he confessed. The confession was not admitted in evidence as it was obtained by threat. Similarly, the confession of an accused does not bind his co-accusers unless they adopt same by word or conduct.

Once the person alleged to have made the confession raises an objection that he did not make it voluntarily, the law is that the voluntariness must be determined by going into trial within trial. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the confession was made voluntarily.

However, where the maker denies that he made it, or that the signature attached to the statement is not correct, such confession is admissible, but his denial may affect the weight the court may attach on the confession.

Again, where a statement was made by the help of an interpreter, then unless that interpreter appears in the court to testify, such extra-judicial statement becomes hearsay and inadmissible. This rule has been established in FRN v. Usman.

If a witness makes a confession in court which is different from the one he or she made at the police, the court will jettison both of them. In Usen v. State, the court held that the fact that an accused person retraces or withdraws his statement made in the course of investigation does not render it inadmissible but only goes to affect it weight.

There is no better evidence than confessional statement. It is the most direct. It is stronger than that of an eyewitness because the evidence comes from the ‘horse’s mouth’ who is the accused person. It can ground conviction in and of itself as it requires no corroboration. However, it must be made voluntarily. This is paramount.